“Greetings from Vietnam, Edina High School!”

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Courtesy of Noah Franske

Noah Franske, guest writer

Earlier this month, around election time, I made a bit of a buzz on Facebook surrounding the changing demographics of Edina. The response has been so positive (thank you all so much), and your wonderful Zephyrus staff have asked me to expand a bit by comparing my new school here in Vietnam to EHS. 

Since it’s the hot-button issue of the day, I’d like to focus on tracking—that is, specifically grouping students based on ability level within a subject. Edina Schools has been moving away from tracking, creating more opportunities for leadership within the school and even between grade levels within a single course. My current school is at the opposite extreme.  The classes are labelled within a year level—we have Math 10.1, Math 10.2, etc. with the highest achieving students in class level 1. There is incredible pressure to move up the ladder. Students here take academics very seriously; their number one motivator is getting out of Vietnam and attend a top university in the world.

What I’ve noticed here, since it’s more obvious than in the states, is that the common denominator in these tracked classes is English proficiency. Every aspect of the school, including instruction, is supposed to be in English. In fact, our school goal this year is to use English all the time. But I’ve noticed, predictably as the students get older, that the high-achieving math classes have a much higher level of English than the low-level classes. How amazing would it be to have an English language learner come to our school and frequently interact with students only speaking English at a high level, getting high-quality tutoring from peers in their own classes? Tracking makes that experience increasingly difficult and only widens the gap. 

My takeaway, after a decade of teaching across several different kinds of schools, is that homogeny is bad. Whether it’s the people with whom you socialize, work, attend school, or anyone that gets a consistent share of your time, I believe that surrounding yourself only by people who share a common trait (race, socioeconomic bracket, academic ability) creates fear, distrust, and injustice. Interacting frequently with people different from yourself creates a more understanding world, a richer life experience, and well-rounded citizens. That sounds like a world in which I’d like to live.

 

Stay classy, Edina!  Love and miss you all.

–Mr. Franske